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film review

A relentless innovator, Laird Hamilton pioneered tow-in surfing, where riders are taken by jet skis to catch monster waves.

Surfers know Laird Hamilton as both hero and villain. Despite never competing professionally, he's been called the Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods of his sport. A relentless innovator, Hamilton pioneered tow-in surfing, where riders are taken by jet skis to catch monster waves. Purists loath him for it. Oscar-nominated director Rory Kennedy's documentary feels like an official portrait – it leans heavily towards the hero side of Hamilton's persona, but it's an often thrilling ride. Starting chronologically, the film shows us a rebellious Hamilton growing up in Hawaii, where he was raised by his single mother and showed a natural affinity for the water. We see his brief modeling career, his role as the bad guy in the cheesy surf flick North Shore, his relentless innovations in both windsurfing and surfing. Interviews with friends, pro surfers, surf magazine editors and wife Gabrielle Reece help us understand Hamilton's drive and stature, but it mostly comes across as brand promotion. The film may not shed any new light on Hamilton, but the footage of him riding 100-foot-high waves is nothing short of awesome.

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says his new documentary Human Flow aims to rebuild bridges and overcome indifference towards the plight of refugees around the world. The film opens Oct. 20 in Toronto.

The Canadian Press